Author Tags: Fiction, Poetry, Publishing, War
Born in the village of Kolibari on the island of Crete in 1947, Manolis Aligizakis moved with his family at a young age to Thessaloniki and then to Athens, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from the Panteion University of Athens.
After graduating from the Panteion Supreme School of Athens, he served in the armed forces for two years and immigrated to Vancouver in 1973, after which he worked in several different jobs over the years. He attended Simon Fraser University for a year taking English Literature in a non-degree program. After working as an iron worker, train laborer, taxi driver, and stock broker, he now lives in White Rock.
Towards the end of 2006 he founded Libros Libertad, an independent publishing company in Surrey, B.C. with the goal of publishing literary books most other companies reject, thus giving voice to people who are not listened to by conventional publishers.
Using the pen name Manolis, Manolis Aligizakis has written novels and numerous books of poetry, as well as articles and short stories in Greek and English. Fellow Greek-Canadian writer Ilya Tourditis has endorsed Nuances by writing, "His canvas, like a Chagall painting, is a blend of moods and well crafted images, reflecting the many nuances of life — nuances that rise above the threshold of primal emotive scenes to where he stands as a poet, observing, contemplating, and arguing for the celebration of love in all its manifestations and connections." Another one of his authors, Luisa Maria Celis, has endorsed Rendition: "This is a vast landscape and the music in the words carries you to distant places with unassuming honesty."
The Circle (Libros Libertad, 2011) is a novel based on the war in Iraq, told from the point of view of Iraqi citizens whose family members were killed and property destroyed, and who ultimately turn to their 'liberator / aggressor' for opportunity.
According to The Surrey Now newspaper in August of 2011, The Circle was conceived shortly after the beginning of the war in Iraq: "It's a look at war from the point of view of the citizen - what happens to him once the bombs stop falling," Manolis told Surrey Now. Young, orphaned Iraqi men are brought to the U.S. to be educated, as sort of atonement for the horrors of war. There, the young men find their anger and emotional scars festering into hatred, focused on that which their former occupiers most value: money. That kind of deep-set hatred for a past national foe is something Manolis knows firsthand. He explained that growing up in Greece, children were taught to hate the Turks, their former occupiers. "When a child hears this again and again, you carry it inside you no matter what benign form it might be in, and it comes out eventually." For him, it was when he drove a cab in Vancouver back in the 1980s. Manolis said he picked up a fare who asked where he was from, and in return he asked the passenger his country of origin. When the man answered Turkey, Manolis said the intensity of his reaction to the man shocked him, especially as he was in his 30s and an otherwise mature, rational person. Nothing passed between the two men, but it did inspire a story that was published in a Greek magazine, and it later served again as context for The Circle.
As a follow-up to his translations for Yannis Ritsos—Poems, a panorama of the Greek poet’s work from the mid-1930s to the 1980s, White Rock publisher and poet Manolis translated Cavafy: Selected Poems (Ekstasis $22.95). The England-trained Greek poet Constantine Cavafy died in his birthplace of Alexandria in 1933, at age seventy. An associate of E.M. Forster, he lived mainly in Egypt, with his mother, until she died in 1899. Generally assumed to be a homosexual, Cavafy was uncelebrated in Greece until after his death. A film about his life was made in 1996.
Three Manolis poems from the bilingual book Nostos and Algos were awarded the first poetry prize in the 7th poetry competition of Volos, organized by the International Arts Academy of Greece, in 2012.
Manolis Aligizakis’ translations for George Seferis-Collected Poems (Libros Libertad 2012) received the 1st International Poetry Prize from The International Academy for the Arts. The Academy also awarded him an honorary “Masters in Literature.”
Manolis' bilingual (English/Greek) reverie about his own spiritual journal in Übermensch (Ekstasis 2013) is a work inspired by the concept of the Superman posited by Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. According to publicity materials: "Übermensch is a reverie in the best traditions of poetry, a poetic sacrament from which the taste of language rises like honey oozing in the ear. Nietzsche believed that we are capable of being better than we are, possessing more understanding, more compassion, greater wisdom and more awareness which allows humanism to fill the void left by the absence of God. As Virgil led Dante on his midlife journey, the Übermensch is our guide through modernity. Manolis has extended his range, celebrating the magnetic possibilities of the self in a narrative that takes us on an intellectual and spiritual journey. The poems possess a vitality of sensuous music in a sea of thought, kinetic and direct, imbued by rational compassion and mystic clarity. Übermensch is presented in a bilingual edition with Greek en face."
Manolis translated the works of Greek poets Cloe Koutsouelis, born in Salonika in 1962, and Alexandra Bakonika, born in Thessalonika in 1951, for Cloe and Alexandra (Libros 2013). That same year he had two books of his own poetry published in Greek, in Greece.
In 2014, Manolis's translation for George Seferis-Collected Poems (Libros Libertad, 2012) became a finalist (shortlisted) in the Greek National Literary Awards Competition in the translation category. The Greek National Literary Awards are the highest level of literary recognition in Greece, equivalent to the Governor General's Awards in Canada. Meanwhile Manolis' bilingual (English/Greek) reverie about his own spiritual journal in Übermensch (Ekstasis 2013) was translated into German and published by Windrose publishers in Austria.
Manolis' 2014, Autumn Leaves, was inspired by the French song of the same name. It is about longing and desire. A sense of the transition from summer to winter permeates the poems.
The prolific poet and publisher announced perhaps his most extraordindary book to date in January of 2015--a facsimile of his handwritten version of Erotokritos, a romantic-epic poem composed by Vitzentzos Kornaros of Crete, a contemporary of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.
The text consists of 10012 fifteen syllable rhyming verses by Kornaros (March 29, 1553 – 1613/1614) that Manolis hand-copied in 1958 at the age of 11.
Erotokritos by Vitzentzos Kornaros and Erophile (E??????) by Georgios Hortatzis, written around the same period, constitute the Renaissance of Greek literature. They are also considered the most important works of Cretan literature--"the backbone of Cretan literature," according to Manolis--and are the poems upon which future poets relied, referred to and drew images from.
Announced on his website for Libros Libertad press in January of 2015, this unusual publishing venture will constitute a limited print run of 100 copies, each to be autographed and dedicated by Manolis, for $5,000 per copy.
The original handwritten version of the text was created in the summer of 1958 after his family moved from the suburb of Peristeri in Athens to Hagios Fanourios where his father managed to build their first family home in the north part of the suburb Ilion. "During that summer my father brought home a copy of the most famous poem Erotokritos. I don't remember where my father found the book, yet I remember he said I could read it and then he would return it to its owner. Knowing the difficult financial situation of those days and knowing it was almost impossible for us to buy such a book, I read it and day after day, page after page, I copied it.... I used two different colors of pen Bic, for those of us who remember those days."
Almost sixty years later Manolis is publishing his hand-written version of the romantic-epic poem as a handwritten book. Only the final twelve verses of the 10,012 verses of fifteen syllables each in the Cretan dialect refer to the poet Vitzentzos Kornaros. According to Manolis, the central theme is the love between Erotokritos (referred to as Rotokritos or Rokritos) and Aretousa (referred to as Arete). Around this theme, revolve other themes such as honour, friendship, bravery and courage.
In Manolis’ Images of Absence (Ekstasis, 2015), according to publicity material, “the microcosm and the macrocosm both blend into the simple images of everyday life that become a mystery into which the poet delves with willingness and humbleness. Yet the poet is afraid that the mystery of these simple everyday images may be violated – disturbed by the phone call of the person just buried day before yesterday, the sacrilegious acts of the cement city people who make dust of every emotion and refinement, by the hierodules and pimps who turn every ideology into a profit thus flattening everything in their path. For the poet everything vanishes, everything flows through his fingers, everything except that smile that is whole, it can’t be divided, it can’t be analyzed, it is the moment that boils and bubbles.”
Three months after asking her lover to leave, Tzoutzi Matzourani is tormented by his absence. Craziness took hold of them when they were together; now an equal craziness pervades her passionate longing for him to reappear. Her reminiscences and pleadings are addressed directly to him in Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover (Libros Libertad 2015 $20), translated by Manolis Aligizakis. The urgency of Matzourani’s poetic bereavements reveals how sexual desire can seem like a form of illness, a cruel intoxication. Love lifts us; love debases us. And nothing else matters. Tzoutzi Matzourani lives in Athens; Aligizakis is a publisher in White Rock.
Born during a London air raid in 1940, self-described "warrior-painter" Ken Kirkby migrated from Portugal to northern B.C. and the Arctic as a young man. In 2015, the acclaimed painter joined forces with Manolis, self-described as “the most prolific writer-poet of the Greek diaspora,” for Chthonian Bodies, a nature-inspired combination of landscape paintings and poetry.
???????? (MEMORY PLEATS), in Greek, Filntisi Publications, Athens, Greece, 2016
FRUNZE DE TO AMNA, poetry by Manolis, translated to Romanian by Lucia Gorea, Ab-Art, Romania, 2016.
MEMORY PLEATS, poetry by Manolis, translated to Serbian by Jolanka Kovacs, CYBERI Publicatios, Serbia, 2016
THE SECOND ADVENT OF ZEUS, poetry by Manolis, Ekstasis Editions, Victoria, BC, 2016
KARYOTAKIS-POLYDOURI//THE TRAGIC LOVE STORY, poetry by Kostas Karyotakis and Maria Polydouris, translated by Manolis Aligizakis, Libros Libertad, 2016
The Second Advent of Zeus (Ekstasis 2016). Poetry. $23.95 978-1-77171-176-0
Chthonian Bodies (Libros Libertad, 2015) $48.00 978-1926-763422
Erotokritos (Libros Libertad, 2015) $5000.00 9781926763361
Images of Absence (Ekstasis Editions, 2015) $23.95 978-1-77171-089-3
Autumn Leaves (Ekstasis 2014) $23.95 978-1-77171-033-6 / Translated into Romanian by Lucia Gorea and republished in Romanian as Frunze de Toamna, 2016. Translated into Serbian and released with the Serbian title Memory Pleats.
Ubermensch (Ekstasis 2013) $23.95 978-1-897430-97-2 / German translation by Eniko Csekei Thiele, 2013, WINDROSE, Austria.
Nostos and Algos (Ekstasis Editions, 2012) $22.95 978-1-897430-81-1 $22.95 / also Nostos si Algos (Cluj-Napoca, Romania: Dellart Publishers, 2013) translated into Romanian by Lucia Gorea; and translated into Hungarian by Karoly Csiby for Eszmelet [Awareness] (Bratislava, Slovakia: AB-ART Publications, 2014)
Mythography: Paintings by Ken Kirby & Friends, Poetry by Manolis (Libros Libertad, 2012) $30 978-1-926763-21-7
Vortex (Libros Libertad, 2011). Poetry
Vernal Equinox (Ekstasis Editions, 2011). $21.95 978-1-897430-69-9
The Circle (Libros Libertad, 2011) 9780978182624 $23.00
Opera Bufa (Libros Libertad, 2010) $17.00, 978-1-926763-09-5. A satirical poetry book.
Triptych (Ekstasis Editions, 2010). Poetry
Vespers (Libros Libertad, 2010). Poetry. With art by Ken Kirkby.
Nuances (Ekstasis Editions, 2009). Poetry
Rendition (Libros Libertad, 2009). Poetry.
ISBN: 9780981073590 $14.95
Impulses (Libros Libertad, 2009). Poetry.
Troglodytes (Libros Libertad, 2008). Poetry.
Petros Spathis (Libros Libertad Publishing, 2007). Novel.
El Greco: Domenikos Theotokopoulos (Libros Libertad, 2007). Poetry
Path of Thorns (Libros Libertad, 2006). Poetry
Footprints in Sandstone (Authorhouse, 2006). Poetry
The Orphans: An Anthology (Authorhouse, 2005). Poetry
Stratis Roukounas (Greek language)(Aristidis Mavridis publishing, Athens Greece, 1981). Novel.
AlSO / TRANSLATION
Constantine P. Cafavy - Poems, edited by George Amabile (Libros Libertad, 2008)
Yannis Ritsos: Poems (Libros Libertad 2010; Ekstasis 2013)
Cavafy: Selected Poems (Ekstasis 2011) $22.95
George Seferis: Collected Poems (Libros Libertad, 2012)
Cloe and Alexandra (Libros 2013). Translated by Manolis.
Idolaters (Libros 2014) Translated by Manolis. $24.00 978-192-6763347
Tasos Livaditis: Selected Poems (Libros 2014) Translated by Manolis. 978-192-6763354
Erotokritos (Libros 2015) by Vitzentzos Kornaros. $5,000. 978-1-926763-36-1
Caressing Myths (Libros 2015) by Dina Georgantopoulos $20 978-1-926763-37-8
Hear Me Out: Letters to My Ex-Lover (Libros Libertad 2015), by Tzoutzi Matzourani. 978-1-926763-40-8 $20
Hours of the Stars (Libros Libertad 2015) by Dimitris Liantinis $20 978-1-926763-41-5
Kariotakis - Polydouri: The Tragic Love Story by Manolis Aligizakis (Libros Libertad 2016) 978-1926763453 $20
[BCBW 2017] "Publishing" "Fiction" "Poetry" "Translation"
Petros Spathis by Manolis (Libros Libertad $22.95)
from Cherie Thiessen
In the 1960s, as the only child of a hard-working farming couple on the harsh and beautifully stark island of Crete, Petros is sent to university in Athens where he excels beyond his parents’ wildest dreams.
Graduating at the top of his class, the budding academic has no shortage of admiring friends or consenting, beautiful young women.
Petros has been offered a position at the university, subject to his attaining an M.A. abroad. His doting uncle and aunt, with whom he has been staying in Athens, are wealthy and childless, so they’re eager to contribute to his international studies. But in literature, as in life, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
In Vancouver, where the Greek community welcomes him, Petros completes his graduate studies at the University of British Columbia. Samantha, an Italian Canadian beauty, can’t get enough of him, and he knows he can marry her and likely take over Samantha’s father’s successful restaurant, or even stay in Canada and accept a university position.
But Greece beckons. Ignoring constant warnings from his Dean, from Samantha, and his friends, Petros is not only tempted to return home to see Madga, the beautiful daughter of wealthy and influential parents, he also misses his parents and he has his ideals: Petros has promised to help his countrymen overthrow the military junta that has taken a stranglehold.
Often touted as the birthplace of democracy, Petros’ beloved Greece has been labouring under a repressive military regime ever since three right wing army officers staged a successful coup in 1967. Now spies are everywhere, neighbours can’t be trusted, and you must be very careful about what you say, and who you say it to.
Dissention can lead to disclosure, which can lead to disappearance. If you take a well-educated, idealistic and patriotic young man, and add an oppressive dictatorship, that can be a good recipe for martyrdom. To say much more is to give too much away.
During the seventies, most Canadians knew very little about what was happening within Greece, so in the spring of 1976 Manolis published a brief version of his novel’s storyline, Spathis-322, in Canadian Fiction Magazine.
“The condensed book was a piece that J. M. Yates and I worked on back in the 70s,” Manolis explains, “and it was 12 pages long. The first two pages of the new book are from that condensed form… So I re-wrote the book and added a few things. I deleted about fifty pages of the old text and historically placed the novel to be consistent with the November 17th events in Greece.”
The student uprising in Athens on November 17, 1973, at the same university where our hero encourages his students to join in the fight for freedom, is credited with the ideological collapse of the junta. The junta was not removed immediately, but those protests sounded the political death knell for the dictatorship.
Manolis has also added lashings of love and lust, and placed part of the story in Vancouver, but it’s the author’s love of his homeland that comes through most strongly in Petros Spathis.
Writing in a language other than in one’s native tongue is difficult to master. There are numerous instances of misplaced or omitted prepositions that could have easily been rectified. Some of the textual errors are funny, seriously messing with the mood of the story. As well, a discerning editor could have helped the author to more realistically represent the women in this story, and animate the central character.
Nevertheless, this novel is important. It shines a light on a time in Greece’s history about which little is known and lesser written.
Manolis was born on the island of Crete in 1947. Educated in Greece (BA in Political Sciences), he served in the armed forces for two years prior to his arrival in Canada. When Manolis—the pen name for Manolis Aligizakis—immigrated to Canada in 1973, one year before the junta disintegrated, he would have been about the same age as his protagonist in the novel.
Whereas the protagonist stays in Greece to try to make a difference, Manolis chose to leave. Petros says ‘no’ to Canada; Manolis said ‘yes,’ and by the novel’s end you will know who made the better choice. It’s almost as if Manolis has created Petros as his idealistic other half, motivating him do on the page what he probably longed to do in person.
--review by Cherie Thiessen
El Greco by Manolis (Libros Libertad $14.95)
from Cherie Thiessen
Since conceiving his imprint Libros Libertad in 2006, Manolis has published 11 works of poetry, memoirs, novels and diatribes including his own volume of poetry, El Greco, a tribute to the artist who is considered one the forerunners of Expressionism and Cubism.
Most widely known by his Spanish nickname, El Greco, the painter was born as Domenikos Theotokopoulos in 1541. He moved to Venice while in his twenties and settled in Toledo, Spain, where he died.
Calling El Greco a series of meditations, Manolis experiments with an offset four-line stanza form, and delights in spilling image upon image unto the page, images like mind grasping splinters. The poet’s humor bubbles up now and again, as in the first poem, Dawn, where death is personified and addressed directly by the poet, as they both share a non-fat latte.
The placement of many of El Greco’s works alongside the poetry adds another dimension to the work, enabling the reader to better appreciate Manolis’ inventive meditations.
-- review by Cherie Thiessen
Yannis Ritsos—Poems (Libros $34)
Unsuccessfully nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize for Literature, Greek poet Yannis Ritsos (1909–1990) is little-known in North America.
Manolis Aligizakis of White Rock hopes to change that.
From among Ritsos’ 46 volumes of poetry, Cretan-born Manolis (his pen name excludes the surname Aligizakis) has translated fifteen of the poet’s books for an unusually hefty volume, Yannis Ritsos—Poems (Libros $34), presenting a panorama of Ritsos’ work from the mid 1930s to the 1980s.
Manolis first encountered Ritsos’ inspiring words as a young man in Greece, in 1958, when composer Mikis Theodorakis—of Zorba the Greek fame—set to music some of Ritsos’ verses from O Epitaphios—a work that had been burned by Greece’s right-wing government at the Acropolis in 1936.
“I was moved in an unprecedented way by the songs,” says Manolis. “They were like a soothing caress to my young and rebellious soul at a time when the Cold War was causing deep divisions in Greece and the recent civil war had seen our country reduced to ruins.”
Yannis Ritsos was an ardent nationalist who most notably fought with the Greek resistance during the Second World War. His 117 books, poetry, novels and plays, are suffused with communist ideals. When Ritsos received the Lenin Peace Prize in 1975, he declared, “this prize is more important for me than the Nobel.”
The early deaths of Ritsos’ mother and his eldest brother from tuberculosis marked him deeply, as did his father’s commitment to a mental asylum, which led to the economic ruin of his once wealthy family. Ritsos himself was in a sanitorium for tuberculosis from 1927 to 1931.
In 1936, Ritsos’ O Epitaphios was burned at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens on orders from the right-wing dictatorship of General Ioannis Metaxas. O Epitaphios refers to the classic funeral oration for soldiers killed in war that was an integral part of the Athenian burial law, and calls for national unity in a time of crisis.
From 1947 to 1952, Ritsos was jailed for his political activities. Under the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, he was interned on the Greek islands of Yaros, Leros and Samos before being moved to Athens and placed under house arrest. Through it all he kept writing. And writing. It wasn’t uncommon for Ritsos to write 15 or 20 poems in one sitting.
Manolis says he has tried to remain as close as possible to the original Greek text, in order to preserve the linguistic charm of Ritsos’ style. Sentences are restructured only when it seemed that the reader would have difficulty grasping the poet’s true meaning.
“In Greek, the writer has a lot more freedom in ordering a sentence than one would in English, where the sequence of words is somewhat more strict.
“The books in the anthology are included whole, not selected poems from each. We had only a certain number of his books available and I felt it would be awkward to separate them satisfactorily.”
Most of the poems in Yannis Ritsos—Poems are appearing in English translation for the first time in North America.
“In choosing the materials, I noticed a transformation from his early days, when he was just the unknown defender of a cause, up to the period during his middle years, when he finds a variety of admirers from around the world.”
Ritsos’ later work, according to Manolis, reveals a mature poet, more laconic and precise, more careful with his words.
“Then, near the end of Ritsos’ creative life, the poems reveal his growing cynicism and utter disillusionment with the human condition, after his world had collapsed around him several times… the human pettiness that drives some human lives shadows him with a deep disappointment that he appears to take with him to his grave.”
The majority of lives don’t have happy endings. Ritsos’ re-publication as a poet in Canadian English represents a rebirth of sorts.
The tradition of overtly political poetry has seemingly vanished in Canada. If only we cared enough about poetry in Canada to burn it. 978-1-926763-07-1
[BCBW 2010] "Poetry"
The Circle by Manolis (Libros Libertad $23)
from Roxana Necsulescu
Born in crete, the publisher, poet and novelist known as Manolis moved to Thessaloniki for his childhood, and went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in political science from the Panteion University of Athens. He served in the armed forces for two years before immigrating to Canada in 1973, where he took classes in English literature at Simon Fraser University. Manolis now writes in both English and Greek.
Primarily set in Pasadena and Los Angeles, his new novel The Circle features two Iraqi men, Hakim and Talal, who are studying in the United States. The third-person narration follows the relationship of the two men as well as their relationship with America, which becomes further complicated when the two of them fall in love with American women. Emily and Jennifer are the wife and daughter of Matthew Roberts, a member of the CIA unit that had a direct role in the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003.
The relationships between the Iraqi men and the American women manage to be both subtle and passionate. Arguably the strength of the story is that Manolis takes care to neither overemphasize or underplay the importance of differing nationalities.
Manolis’ background in poetry is apparent throughout. When describing the love affair between Talal and Emily, he writes: “Talal sits listening to the song of the wind through the small park where they sit, a song that unfolds slowly and methodically like a majestic eagle spreading its wings to the heights of the sky.”
As the novel unfolds, Hakim gains a greater awareness of horrific events that transpired during the American/Iraqi war. He also learns to gradually accept the past and move on. Under the guidance of his wealthy uncle Ibrahim Mahdi, he learns not to be prejudiced against the Americans that he meets in his daily life in L.A. and to avoid punishing Jennifer for her father’s involvement in the war.
The artful writing conveys a sense of humility that all the characters share. Hakim and Talal do not monopolize the dialogue. There is an overarching understanding provided to all the characters. Even Matthew Roberts, the CIA member, is written with a high degree of compassion rather than judgment.
The Circle was conceived shortly
after the beginning of the war in Iraq: “It’s a look at war from the point of view of the citizen, what happens to him once the bombs stop falling,” Manolis told Surrey Now.
Learned hatred for a previous national foe is something Manolis knows firsthand. Growing up in Greece, children were routinely taught to hate the Turks, their former occupiers. “When a child hears this again and again,” he says, “you carry it inside you no matter what benign form it might be in, and it comes out eventually.”
Driving a cab in Vancouver in the 1980s, Manolis once picked up a fare who asked him where he was from, and in return he asked the passenger his country of origin. When the man answered Turkey, Manolis said the intensity of his reaction to the man shocked him, especially as he was in his 30s and an otherwise mature, rational person.
Nothing passed between the two men, but it did inspire a story that was published in a Greek magazine, and that story has provided the context for The Circle. 9780978186524
Roxana Necsulescu is a contributing editor to BC BookWorld Express
Cavafy: Selected Poems by Constantine Cavafy (Ekstasis $22.95) Translated by Manolis
As a follow-up to his translations for Yannis Ritsos—Poems (Libros), a panorama of the Greek poet’s work from the mid-1930s to the 1980s, White Rock publisher and poet Manolis has translated Cavafy: Selected Poems (Ekstasis $22.95). The England-trained Greek poet Constantine Cavafy died in his birthplace of Alexandria in 1933, at age seventy. An associate of E.M. Forster, he lived mainly in Egypt, with his mother, until she died in 1899. Generally assumed to be a homosexual, Cavafy was uncelebrated in Greece until after his death. A film about his life was made in 1996. 978-1-897430-76-7
Ubermensch, by Manolis Aligizakis is the most difficult and most philosophical poetry book I have come across. And rightfully so since it is identified with Nietzsche’s “Ubermensch” so much in the plot as much in the concepts. The poet “toys” with the various conventions as he firstly relates Ubermensch to true dimension given to him by the German philosopher and secondly to the misinterpretation given to the concept by the German ‘national-socialists’ with the horrible results that followed and affected the whole world.
Before we describe Manolis Algizakis’ Ubermensch, let us quickly look at what Nietzsche anticipated from his treatise. In simple words Nietzsche posited man opposite his abilities and responsibilities which should he had used wisely, he could overcome every obstacle. With the right use of his logic and his instinct as his primal levers man can live in a free and just society where everyone is master of himself. Nietzsche, of course, never described the moral dimension of Ubermensch, as the author claimed, as he appeared to fill the void created by the lack of authority and the Death of God. Ubermensch therefore is a redeemer, defender of morality but at the same time uncontrollable, as far as it concerns his ulterior plans for the world that remain vague…
This book published in both Greek and English consists of three parts and the style of writing is closer to prose than poetry. In the first part “Red Dawn”, man being free from all religious obligations decides to walk the earth based on his strength and wants to get rid of his ties to the system. In a collapsing society and in a family that loses its primal meaning a person needs to accept human futility and if successful man will then recognize the importance of simple things such as nature and the innocent moments of childhood, the weight hidden in a word, in a compliment, in a gesture worthy of praise. The defenseless, before death, man waits languidly for his “resurrection”, without any effort to rid of his narcissism and irresponsibility. Thus, away from his God and his beliefs, man was led to his oblivion. But with ignorance as his point from where he commences his charge he can achieve greatness and he can excel.
How then can man change to the better? With self-knowledge, with paying attention to the importance of everyday events, with the right reflection of the positive and negative parameters that influence his life. At this point the appearance of Ubermensch among the people is announced who with the people’s devotion, again he sprang out of their self-consciousness. By trying to prove to him that they’re knowledgeable and can endure hardship they succumb to his preaching. And Ubermensch—the tyrant (as the poet calls him) opportunist as he is started to fully control their fearful consciousness. Smart, demagogue, witted he was the only one who could sense the human mistakes and him alone could subjugate them. Never punishing and never asking for something in return, known to forgive, he preached morality and balance. The first part closes with the people’s declaration of obedience, event that satisfied him to the fullest…
In the second part, “Fiery Highnoon”, Ubermensch begins the true preaching of his ideology. In fact he starts to reveal his true self. The poet presents before the eyes of Ubernmensch and his followers a series of men letting Ubermensch unfold his philosophy to the world. Among these men are: a beggar, an old miser, a jester, a decadent king…
Ubermensch, familiar with the human passion preaches his beliefs and presents his preferences. He likes for example those who live with no goals, meaninglessly, who disdain everything, who don’t sacrifice themselves for anything, those who with their acts bring him closer to his dominance, the ones who amass money and land which he’ll at some future day take from them, the ones who pretend they are not afraid, those who chase an unaccomplished morality, those who forever carry their wounds deep inside them, those who use the power of God to solve their problems, those who because of their deeds and decisions are led to their destruction. And all these, whom “he likes” hover over the heads of his followers, his followers who without religion stand opposite the chaos they brought unto the world; those who foolishly and without reservation accepted him into their houses; those dreamers, the self- absorbed, the loners and the arrogant. Those who forgot where they came from and they fell innocently in the pangs of the new leader. However their wholehearted joy for him, who would change the world, soon disappeared when they sensed that everything around them was ruined and again the lie was dominant. Finally they understood that again they were the ones who fought against themselves while contributing to the creation of their own hell thus empowering Ubermensch.
In the third part of the book, “Conflagrated Dusk”, an evaluation of what transpired in the people’s lives while they lived along the Ubermensch takes place. Men had decided to hate everybody and become the bridge upon which Ubermensch would pass in order to achieve his goals. They were left naked and they witnessed the masses to be overtaken by greediness and dissolution. They again came across a world that didn’t like to change and only kept on following false leaders who promised hollow rewards.
The last journey with Ubermensch takes place before certain men who are chosen because of their attributes: an Eparch, an undertaker, a teacher, a painter, a general, a poet, a potter and a dancer. Each of them is to a certain extend an Ubermensch, because of what they create in their fields and because of their abilities while others are incapable of becoming Ubermenschen because of the weaknesses.
The poet, Manolis Aligizakis, tests human endurances and bounds. He underscores concepts that leave the reader with questions and why not, with an awakening. Everyone can be an Ubermensch in his field as long as he can rely on his own strengths and skills. Even the supporters of Manolis Aligizakis’ Ubermensch, at the end, rejuvenated by what they lived through experience, they decided to wake up and never to become again victims of the system. The poet underlines that the distance between the opposite polarities is very small: between a truth and a lie, between a belief and atheism, trust and suspicion, life and death. “Everything” is we as long as we understand our true self and we live in relation to that. Therefore every one of us can be an Ubermensch when we fight with all our strength for something higher and at the same so does the one who acquires (quite unjustly) power from the weakness of others and leads the rest in the wrong path (for example the German social-nationalism).
In conclusion I would like to underscore that from the moment I received and opened this book I understood I was before a truly great accomplishment. And for this I owe a big “thank you” to Manolis Aligizakis, the poet, for his trust in me. Manolis Aligizakis, a Greek—Canadian citizen, proves that Greek literature outside Greece is of the highest quality.
An example of the Manolis’ writing is the following poem:
We the leaders and we the followers
the blind killers and the blind victims
I the atheist and I the pious
the filthy rich and the despondent
We the egotistical and we the humble
the allies and the enemies
I the knowledge and I the ignorance
the palatial and the squalor
We the dreamers and we the dreamless
the forever roamers and the domesticated
I the important consonant and I the vowel
the wide ocean and the secluded cove
We the princes and we the beggars
the bigots and the altruists
I the hero and I the traitor
the serpent and the eagle
We the sheep and we the lions
the socialites and the hermits
I the free spirited and I the fanatic
the man erectus and the worm
We the anthropocentric and we the anthropoid
the autocratic and the marionettes
I the child of God and Devil’s cousin
the arduous worker and the tedious
We the initiates and we the initiated
the ropewalkers and the Übermenschen
Alexander Akritidis—Writer, University Graduate with a Diploma in Humanities
Eroticism in the poetry or Manolis
from Alexandra Bakonika
EROTICISM IN THE POETRY OF MANOLIS ALIGIZAKIS
The poet Manolis Aligizakis has familiarized himself with the tragedy by seeing life through the multi-faceted lens of observation and by living experiences that gave him the ability to perceive first-hand the injustice, exploitation, greediness and the various expressions of violence. Unquestionably the ugliness of this world saddens him like a wound that doesn’t heal. When he feels uncertain with himself and divided in two we find in his poetry a messianic sense that leads him to wish to change the world and make it better free of all ugliness and lawlessness. However he has no illusion that idealism, visions and civility are things easily accomplished. If great gestures and practical action retreat before the opposition, at least what one can achieve through messianic ideas is the beauty through poetry that brings harmony, enjoyment and ultimately truth.
Can Manolis channel beauty as easily as he describes it in his verse? “an old time leader/like an anointed and pious/a musical instrument of free flowing innocence/ready to speak with words that relieve the pain and free the spirit?” Yes and his main tool is his first hand experience of the power of Eros. His psychological makeup draws and transmits authenticity and felicity based on his adoration of and being adored by feminine figures sensual and provocative exposing him into an ecstatic transcendence through their lusting bodies and their devoted deep love and understanding. It’s obvious he finds his contention in being passionately in love with his beloved.
He doesn’t hide that before he was born he wanted to become “a festival song/a bird’s flutter/an evening vesper/a simple sigh/that will scar the lips of his beloved.” If he feels powerless before the inconceivable and undefined Fate, he declares a woman’s embrace invites him and he likes to give in to her passion: “obscure and vague circle/forever indeterminable/and this, the command/and this, the obedience/and this, the orgasm/ and this, the Eros/and this is you.” He feels that being favored by Eros he diffuses his fiery passion with light that fills his erotic verses. As a gallant defender of lust and sensuality and of the true emotions of love he hands down delight and exhilaration of the soul.
Idealism as well as pragmatism, messianism but also tradition in the languor of the senses, love affairs devoted to the ephemeral satisfaction and erotic drunkenness compose the variations of his vast poetic content. Having the maturity of an accomplished poet and the ability to craft evocative imagery in a personal way the poet introduces us in what constitutes the most brilliant expression of his innermost thoughts and beliefs opposite the world of his time and age.
In his book “Ubermensch” his eroticism is somewhat subdued although is part of Manolis’ imagery along with his messianism which is the main stigma Manolis introduces us to in his very first poem.
accepted it: our God was dead. Buried him yesterday
afternoon with no songs, no paeans, nor lamentations
and we felt a lot lighter.
….while fear, I would say,
was hidden deep in our hearts.
….and in an eyrie we filled our chalice
with courage and we mailed it to the four corners of
the universe and promised never to be trapped again
in the idiocy of a system.
The Andian condor we declared heir of the flesh.
The wind and the rain we proclaimed our catharsis.
Evoe, oh, free elements, evoe.
A big part of the western philosophy since the end of Medieval Times doubted the existence of God although that doubt was subdued concealed because of the fear of the church. Only Nietzsche dared stand up and declare the death of God and in its place he proposed the Ubermensch-Superman. Manolis’ poetic vision in in his book Ubermensch is based upon this daring mind of the German philosopher. However who is Ubermensch? What values does he promote for the tormented world? These questions find their answers in this poetry collection which is a way of initiation for encouragement and exaltation. Ubermensch is the great initiate who guides man onto a long and tiring process that will free his soul from the clutches of dogmas thus hoping to contribute to his happiness. He evangelizes man’s rebirth and renewal through gaining free will which is the basis of every spiritual lifting in this earthly life, the only one we have, while the metaphysical hope of the Christian after life is negated.
Free will leads to search, doubt, continuous quest for knowledge, to the brotherhood of men for a more just and more sunlit world, fundamentally it leads to an effort to make the conditions of life better based on self- knowledge and virtue. On the other hand earthly enjoyment shouldn’t be put aside. The Apollonian spirit has to walk parallel to the Dionysian revelry. Dancing, music, poetry possess a central role in the philosophical exaltation Ubermensch proposes. He prompts us to enjoy the delightful aspect of life, to taste it with all our senses. Drunkenness through joy empowers the spirit to endure the arduous path toward philosophy and virtue.
Manolis Algizakis has no illusions that the gaining of free will and spirit is an easy path to follow, it does demand spiritual strength and as an introduction to this poetry book he declares quite clearly:
“For those who dare melt into the concept of freedom and for an infinitesimal fraction of time they can claim: freedom I am. This book is not for the faint-hearted. Dare to read.”
For this poet, the initiates and initiated, the rope walkers and the Ubermenschen resemble a tree that grows and stares the ever brilliant sun while their limbs root deep into the abyss. They have to follow this inescapable duality in order to succeed in the battle of man against the beast.
~ALEXANDRA BAKONIKA, review written for the magazine ENEKEN, Salonica-Greece, Autumn 2014.
Eric Ponty on Manolis
The sensuality of Manolis via Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos
As history teaches us, the contrast between life and art has made it easy to think of Cavafy in the abstract, as an artist whose work exists free from tradition and attachment to a specific moment in time. This trend has been prompted by the two elements of his poetry for which he is most famous: his surprisingly contemporary theme (one of his themes, at least), and his attractive and direct style.
Certainly there have always been many readers who appreciate the so-called historical poems, situated in magical places of the Mediterranean during times that have been long dead and acrimonious with sociable irony and a certain tired stoicism. ("Ithaca gave you the beautiful journey, / without her you would not have put in the passage. / But now she has nothing to give you," he writes in what may be the most famous evocation of ancient Greek culture: the journey is always more important than the fatefully disappointing destination.) This can be seen in the poem:
Honor to all of those who in their lives
have settled on, and guard, a Thermopylae.
Never stirring from their obligations;
just and equitable in all of their affairs,
but full of pity, nonetheless, and of compassion;
generous whenever they’re rich, and again
when they’re poor, generous in small things,
and helping out, again, as much as they are able;
always speaking nothing but the truth,
yet without any hatred for those who lie.
And more honor still is due to them
when they foresee (and many do foresee)
that Ephialtes will make his appearance in the end,
and that the Medes will eventually break through
But it is probably fair to say that the popular reputation of Cavafy rests almost entirely on the remarkably preexisting way in which his other "sensual" poems, often not considered as this poet's gift, deal with the ever-fascinating and pertinent themes of erotic desire, realization and loss.
The way, too, when memory preserves what desire so often cannot sustain. That desire and longing only makes it appear more contemporary, closer to our own times. Perhaps this is the case with Manolis’ poem:
After leaving our marks
on the sole lamppost
she to the west
I to the east
with a promise
to meet again
by this lamppost
and trace our marks
though we never thought of the Sirens
the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon
though we never thought of the pricey
No one but Cavafy, who studied history not only eagerly but with a studious respect and meticulous attention to detail, would have recognized the dangers of abstracting people from their historical contexts; and nowhere is this abstraction more dangerous than in the case of Cavafy himself.
You said: “I’ll go to another land, to another sea;
I’ll find another city better than this one.
Every effort I make is ill-fated, doomed;
and my heart —like a dead thing—lies buried.
How long will my mind continue to wither like this?
Everywhere I turn my eyes, wherever they happen to fall
I see the black ruins of my life, here
where I’ve squandered, wasted and ruined so many years.”
New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas.
The city will follow you. You will return to the same streets.
You will age in the same neighborhoods; and in these
same houses you will turn gray. You will always
arrive in the same city. Don’t even hope to escape it,
there is no ship for you, no road out of town.
As you have wasted your life here, in this small corner
you’ve wasted it in the whole world.
Surely his work is as good as great poetry can be and at the same time timeless in the way we like to think that great literature can be alchemizing details of the poet's life, times and obsessions into something relevant to a large audience over the years and even centuries.
But the tendency to see Cavafy as one of us, as one in our own time, speaking to us with a voice that is transparent and admittedly ours about things whose meaning is self-evident, threatens to take away a specific detail one that, if we give it back to him, makes him look larger than life and more a poet of the future, as it was once described, rather than the time he lived in. This detail also pertains to the biography of Manolis who refers to mythical passages of his home-country and unfolds scenes of sensuality, abandonment and loss.
Cavafy's style, to begin with, is far less prosaic, much richer although not musical, and rooted deeply in the nineteenth century in which he lived for more than half of its life. Some readers will be surprised to learn that many of Cavafy's poems, even when he was almost forty, were cast as sonnets or other prepared forms of verse.
Manolis was born in Kolibari a small village west of Chania on the Greek island of Crete in 1947. At an early age his family took him first to Thessaloniki and then to Athens where he was educated, earning a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the Panteion University of Athens.
The subject in some of Cavafy which tend to be overlooked by readers as difficult are the poems deliberately placed in the dark, geographical and temporal margins of the Greek past: poems which seem not to have much to do with today’s concerns and are often passed in favor of works with more contemporary appeal.
Perhaps this is the case with Manolis who draws from the same Greek sources as Cavafy does making historical references to Greece, the cradle where his soul was born, when he creates the Greek myths interacted in his contemporary poetry. Even far from his motherland Greece where he resides now he still retains in his poetic memory, images and themes he channels through verve in this book and others.
Can Manolis channel the beauty as easily as he describes in his verse? "An ancient time leader / as an anointed and pious / a musical instrument of candor flowing free / ready to speak with words that relieve pain and free the soul?" Yes its main tool is its firsthand experience of the power of Eros. His psychological makeup attracts and conveys authenticity and happiness based on his worship and being adored by sensual and provocative female figures exposing him in an ecstatic transcendence through his bodies of lust and his deep love and dedicated understanding. It is obvious that he finds his purpose in falling in love passionately for his beloved.
He does not hide that before he emerged he wanted to become "a festival / movement song of a bird / a vesper / a simple sigh / that will heal the lips of his beloved." If he feels impotent in the face of inconceivable and unlimited Destiny, he declares that a woman's embrace beckons him and he likes to give in to his passion: "dark and vague circle / forever indeterminable / and this, the command / and this, the Obedience / This, the orgasm / and this, the Eros / and this is you." He feels being favored by Eros he diffuses his burning passion with light that fills his erotic verses. As a gallant defender of lust and sensuality and the true emotions of love, he delivers the joy and joy to the soul.
Both idealism and pragmatism, messianism, but also the tradition in the languor of the senses, the subjects of love dedicated to ephemeral satisfaction and erotic drunkenness make up the changes of its vast poetic content. Having the maturity of an accomplished poet and the ability to create evocative images in a personal way, the poet introduces us to what constitutes the most brilliant expression of his most intimate thoughts and beliefs in front of the world of his time and age.
The way, too, where memory preserves what desire so often can’t sustain. That desire and longing were for other men only makes it appear more contemporary, closer in our own times as we see in this opening poem of Golden Kiss, which poem may seem obscene and prosaic created by a minor poet, but when creating by a poet as Manolis locks up the erotic aura of a Moravia.
like a bird stilled by camera lens
her scandalous vulva visits his mind
from days of that August
on the scorched island
in low tone siesta
in muffled moaning
lest the mirror would crack from tension
In the 1880s and 1890s, Constantine Cavafy was a young man with modest literary ambitions, writing verses and contributing articles, critiques and essays, mostly in Greek but in English (A language in which he was perfectly at home as a result of spending a few of his adolescence years in England), on a number of idiosyncratic subjects, Alexandria and Athenian newspapers. This similarity in biographies binds Cavafy with Manolis who lives in Vancouver and writes poems in Greek and English referring to both countries.
Yannis Ritsos was born in Monemvasia, Greece, on May 1, 1909, in a family of landowners. He did his early schooling and finished high school in Gythion, Monemvasia and after graduating in 1925, he moved to Athens where he began working on typing and copying legal documents. A year later, he returned to his home town where he spent his time writing and painting, another form of art that he devoted himself which along with his writing he kept for the rest of his life, perhaps the painting has given him elements of his sensual poems:
Our women are distant, their sheets smell of goodnight.
They put bread on the table as a token of themselves.
It’s then that we finally see we were at fault; we jump up saying,
‘Look, you’ve done too much, take it easy, I’ll light the lamp.
’She turns away with the striking of the match,
walking towards the kitchen, her face in shadow,
her back bent under the weight of so many dead –
those you both loved, those she loved, those
you alone loved . . . yes . . . and your death also
Listen: the bare boards creaking where she goes.
Listen: the dishes weeping in the dishrack.
Listen: the train taking soldiers to the front.
Sometimes the poems are invested with the fractured logic of the dream with images of dream events or they’re placed in a landscape of dreams that grows, as one reads more, more and more recognizable, less strange, always attractive. At the same time, their locations and quotations are redemptive of a completely recognizable Greece: the balconies, the geraniums, the statuary, women in their black attires and, in a lasting way, the sea. His touch is light, but its effect is profound. Much depends on the image that causes the narrative movement. Some poems are so small, so distilled, that the fragments of history given to us - the kids' psychodramas - have an irresistible power. "The less I get the bigger it gets," said Alberto Giacometti and the same powerful reticence is a feature in Ritsos' shorter poems.
The content of Yannis Ritsos also deserves renewed attention - both the specific themes of the individual poems, which in fact keep the historical and the erotic in a single focus.
Eroticism is one of the appearances of man's inner life. In this one deludes himself because one is seeking his fixed object of desire. But this object of desire responds to the internal desire. The choice of an object always depends on the individual's personal tastes: even if it falls on the woman most would have selected, what comes into play is often an unspeakable aspect, not an objective characteristic of this woman unless she has touched the inner being of man she creates the force to choose her.
The notion of disorientation (similar, perhaps, to the effect of a mild virus), when heightened emotion puts us at odds with the world, when the aromas become sour, when a view of the garden becomes desolate, when household objects shed their purpose, is perfectly evoked in these ten lines. There is an immediate recognition of a precarious ontological state tied to a story until, a moment later, we realize that we can see that street, see that window, see through that door:
It was just luck: I open the door, the two women
side by side on the sofa
in his black handkerchief,
mother and daughter, perhaps,
staying immobile, unpronounceable, a mouthful of bread
on the table, a cat sleeping on the couch.
Looking away and the sun at the top of the waves, cicadas
the swallows attractions in blue. They look back.
I almost had it, I almost had it in one of them.
Then Mother got up and closed the door.
This poem by Yannis Ritsos refers us to another poem by Manolis but more sensual and right:
Nothing to hold onto
but ourselves in lust
and the cenotaph with
names engraved in marble
yet in this near futile void
a sudden speck of light
gleams on Suzanne’s breast
as a lightning flash like
when her eyes demanded
a deeper meaning to this: are we
to search for it during this dark night
with our two bodies as the only absolution?
The sensuality of the Mediterranean world may be in the Greek soul of the poets to a greater or lesser degree, as we have seen over the years and centuries, referring to the idea that the Greek gods though dead are alive in the souls of the Greeks: Eros and Dionysus are alive from the bygone days of yesteryears to today and even more so in the case of Manolis who lives in Vancouver but has not forgotten his Cretan roots, and he writes in both Greek and English and shows with his simple poem Golden Kiss the sensual and erotic connection between his poetry and that of Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos.
~Eric Ponty, poet, translator